Happy Planet Index – Development Without Costing the Earth

An ongoing discussion: how to measure life satisfaction, success, well-being? Recently, the new edition of the Happy Planet Index (HPI) endeavours to contribute a measure for the success of states to provide or allow a happy life to their current and future citizens. Including average life expectancy aims at a most obvious element of life satisfaction; being alive is quiet fundamental for being happy after all. The quality of life on the other side is highly subjective. While material wealth is clearly not enough, a certain affluence or at least security undoubtedly adds to general life satisfaction. In any way, it is a highly subjective matter; a peasant farmer in Niger would most probably value different things differently than a hedge fund manager in New York. Therefore, the HPI uses personal interviews in order to assess average happiness. The third factor is the ecological sustainability. What good is a satisfying and long life, if we leave a polluted and irreparably damaged planet to our children and grand children? The ecological footprint measures the amount of resources a nation consumes in relation to its fair share on a global scale.

Results: As in previous editions, Costa Rica takes the top spot. Its citizens enjoy higher life expectancies than US Americans, they are considerably happier and they use much less (though still too much) of natural resources than most Western countries. Speaking of the US: The economically and politically most powerful nation spectacularly fails in this comprehensive measure. The profligate resource consumption, which does not even yield more satisfaction or life expectancy than both comparable and much poorer (in conventional measures) countries, put it on the sick list. Europe does a better job at translating resources into happiness but still is on a very unsustainable development path. Several Latin American and Asian countries show the way to go.

It’s high time to adjust policy and development goals away from a outdated economic growth model to a more sustainable and comprehensive one. Policy makers ought to take note, particularly because a green and sustainable economy may provide even more and especially more local jobs than conventional growth.

Source: New Scientist


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